Evil downloaders sued for trillions

ONE of my favourite corporate mottos is Google's slogan "Don't be evil".

In just three words, it manages to sum up a friendly, funny and respectable company goal that allows it to stand out from other companies.

You can make millions or billions of dollars, just don't be evil when doing it.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the representatives of the American recording industry, have a similar motto, only they forgot the "don't".

Welcome to the wonderful world of the RIAA, where nothing is more reprehensible or more deserving of punishment than a 17-year-old kid downloading the latest Metallica CD for free.

If any of you have seen Austin Powers, I want you to prepare your best Dr Evil impression for this next bit.

The RIAA have sued the makers of online file-sharing program LimeWire for... $75 trillion dollars.

Place your pinkie finger on your lip and cue dramatic music now.

RIAA claimed that LimeWire should pay up to $150,000 in damages for each download of the 11,000 copywrited songs identified as being illegally downloaded.

So in total, that's a reasonable $75 trillion in damages their asking for, enough to pay off the entire US debt five times over.

The Gross Domestic Product of all of Australia is only $1.2 trillion, even less if you don't include the $60 I won on the pokies last week.

I have a hard enough time getting friends to pay back the $5 they owe me, how on earth are the RIAA supposed to get $75 trillion out of anyone?

RIAA argues that illegal downloads are killing the music industry, although I think auto-tune is doing a far better job.

Yes, downloading music is illegal, but it seems hard to hate it too much when the enforcers are far, far worse than the offenders.

The RIAA has a history of going after minor offenders with the ferocity of a pitbull in heat chasing a crippled poodle.

Case in point: the defendants pointed out that $75 trillion was actually "more money than the entire music industry has made since Edison's invention of the phonograph in 1877".

I don't know if they chose such a high amount so they could be taken seriously, but it certainly had the opposite effect.

One fan of the RIAA's over-zealous lawsuit is physics student Joel Tenenbaum. Tenenbaum was orded to pay $675,000 for 30 songs he downloaded from a file sharing program as a kid.

That's the equivalent of paying for $22,500 a song in a list that includes Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and the Goo Goo Dolls. Seems fair to me.

Or ask Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a mother of four who was sued by the RIAA and ordered to pay $2 million in damages for 24 songs she downloaded (later reduced to $54,000).

What's even worse is that the courts managed to find juries stupid enough to agree with the RIAA that someone should have their entire life ruined because they downloaded a $30 album's worth of music. So kudos to you RIAA for fighting a losing battle against online music downloads while still managing to be as evil and dastardly as possible in the process.

And guys, if it makes you feel any better, at least they won't have the internet in hell.

Culture Sparrow is a weekly humour column written by Callum Johnson.

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